Touchstone picks Cherry

Scribe is the apple of ABC eye

“Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry has inked a rich new overall deal with Touchstone Television that will keep him in bed with the women of Wisteria Lane for at least three more years.

Pact, which is retroactive to last summer and runs through summer 2007, is estimated to be worth at least high seven figures and possibly more, depending on the red-hot sudser’s ultimate syndication value. It calls for Cherry to remain exec producer of “DH” while working to develop new projects for the studio via his Cherry Prods. shingle.

As recently as 18 months ago, Cherry admitted, he was “so out of it in this town, I couldn’t even get hired on shows I despised.”

“I keep waiting to wake up,” he told Daily Variety. “The past few years have been so gratifying because I think the good Lord worked it out so I could learn some stuff, and now I can go on with my life. I feel like the luckiest boy in the USA.”

While other studios are said to have made overtures to Cherry’s camp, scribe was never put on the market, in part because Cherry is passionate about staying with “DH” and is grateful to ABC and Touchstone for their support in producing and launching the show.

“I’m a sitcom guy, and I’ve never done something like this before. They’ve been great in terms of allowing me time to learn,” Cherry said.

Touchstone prexy Mark Pedowitz said a new deal with Cherry was a no-brainer.

“I realized that Marc Cherry had to remain with us at the studio after seeing the pilot for ‘Desperate Housewives’ and the passion he has for his writing,” Pedowitz said.

All parties involved were staying mum on the coin involved in the deal, but the pact reportedly gives Cherry big bumps in his per-episode fees as well as a nice cut in whatever backend value the show generates. Paradigm and Jon Moonves brokered the deal.

With “DH” still such a young hit, Cherry said he’s in no rush to start developing another project. “For the next few years, my focus is on ‘Desperate Housewives’ and making sure we get to syndication,” Cherry said. “After maybe 2½ or two years, I’ll start working on some other ideas I have.”

Since its October debut, “DH” has become a bona fide phenom, regularly increasing its Nielsen ratings and its buzz factor in a way no network TV show has done since “ER” premiered a decade ago. Along with “Lost” and “Wife Swap,” “DH” is one of three frosh ABC skeins to lift the Alphabet out of its ratings funk and lead the net to a second-place finish among total adult 18-49 viewers in the just-completed November sweeps.

Cherry recently added a pair of new scribes to the “DH” writing team: Katie Ford (“Miss Congeniality,” the upcoming live-action version of “Trumpet of the Swan”) and Chris Black (“Star Trek: Enterprise”). New additions replace three writers who have left the skein.

Former Touchstone TV topper and current ABC prexy Steve McPherson developed “DH” at the studio, with former ABC drama chief Thom Sherman buying Cherry and Chuck Pratt’s “DH” script on spec last fall (Daily Variety, Oct. 22, 2003).

“I can maybe remember one time we’ve bought a spec script in the time I’ve been here,” Sherman said at the time. “It just doesn’t happen.”

Cherry was known for his work on laffers including “The Golden Girls,” “The Five Mrs. Buchanans” and “Some of My Best Friends.” In interviews, scribe has been candid about his showbiz cold streak, as well as the reluctant legal battle he waged against his former agent, who was convicted of embezzling money from Cherry.

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